The plight of Japan’s animators, long famed for being paid slave wages, has been making headlines again with the news that Studio Easter, the makers of Case Closed, are being sued for allegedly paying their animators as little as $3 an hour.

The revelations arise from a lawsuit being brought against Studio Easter by 3 of the animators it employed making Case Closed, demanding ¥27,000,000 in compensation for unpaid overtime, illegally low wages, “power harassment,” forced retirement and a catalogue of other labour law violations.

Training wages as low as ¥250 an hour

“I worked until late each day, my health was ruined and I can’t lead a normal life.”

This is the complaint of a 24-year-old animator who entered the company March last year. Of Taiwanese extraction, he came to love Japanese anime and came to Japan when he was 18. After graduating from a Japanese language school, he worked with colour design at Studio Easter.

At the time he thought it was the culmination of a long-held dream, but it soon turned into a nightmare.

After entering the company as a trainee, he found himself paid an hourly wage of ¥250 (¥2000 a day), far below the Tokyo minimum wage of ¥821 an hour.

As he could not live on such a wage, he was forced to subsist on payments from his parents.

After finishing his training, he found himself on a base wage of 150,000 a month. He did receive one day off each week, although he was “sometimes called in to work” even then. He never received payment for overtime or work on his holidays.

His superiors were unsympathetic: “This is a matter of course in the anime industry. If we obeyed labour laws there would be no company and no anime industry.”

Other claims made in the suit include being awarded a ¥40,000 pay cut after suffering injuries caused by scanning 1,000 sheets of production material a day and being harassed into quitting for giving a subordinate a paid vacation.

Although the allegations could probably be made by most Japanese against their employers (compulsory unpaid overtime, “service zangyou,” is regarded as one of the reasons Japanese workers are actually some of the most overworked and least productive in the developed world), the treatment meted out to animators appears to be exceptionally poor even by Japanese standards.

Online there is a very mixed reaction, ranging from denouncing the litigants for not displaying the servile obedience expected of true Japanese spirit, to outrage at the exploitative business practices of the studios, and of course some concern about how the industry would sustain itself if it had to pay minimum wages to the relatively unskilled drudges it depends on:

“You’ll get more on benefits!”

“Try another line of work!”

“It’s your fault for joining a company like that. If you don’t like it, quit!”

“Smash these outrageous companies!”

“Destroy anime culture! How can an industry like this have survived?”

“As much as ¥250!? Wages in the anime business sure have risen a lot recently. Just after the bubble burst it was like ¥50-¥150.”

“¥250 is a China level wage! You’d get 800-1000 just working part-time in a convenience store.”

“Case Closed was not exactly a flagship for good quality animation, was it?”

“It’s amazing people still want to work as animators really. You’d think the industry’d either run out of employees or have to put up the wages.”

“They just lie about working conditions all the time. There are even shows on TV pushing it as a good job. Trick the kids into wanting to become animators, that’s how the industry sustains itself.”

“If you improve conditions for the production slaves, the number of anime produced must decrease. I don’t want to be stuck watching anime which aren’t just to my taste, so please keep working, slaves!”

“I don’t think that would be too bad, the working conditions seem to be dragging the quality down.”

“Well, as they get the young ones who can’t stand it to quit, the only ones who get to the top are the ones who survive it.”

“I thought they would have been paid per cell, not per day, to be honest.”

“They are just burning out young animators and then discarding them. Despicable.”

“One of Japan’s flagship industries – look at it. No signs of improvement, they’ll ruin themselves keeping on like this.”

“They will be crushed soon enough? Foreigners aren’t like Japanese, they won’t ‘gaman’ this out. With the industry increasingly dependent on foreign animators it’s hard to see them continuing like this. I think it would be better if they got hit with more lawsuits like this.”

“His superior was right – if the anime industry obeyed labour laws, there would be no industry! Don’t like it? Quit!

¥150,000 was quite good pay, if you don’t like it, go back to China! The companies in China they subcontract out to have even worse conditions!

They probably knew this, and sued them on purpose. Money grubbers, keep out of the anime industry!”

“They should be made to pay up, this is just a violation of the law.”

“You guys could just stop buying discs and hand it over to the animators directly, I suppose?”

“When I worked as animator, the average monthly salary was ¥90,000 and I got ¥1,100,000 annually. It cost ¥80,000 just to live month to month, and there were national insurance payments and so on on top of that. You could only survive in that industry if you loved your work.”

“Do something about this! This is one of the cultures which represents Japan! The state is too incompetent…”

“Japan, renowned throughout the world for the unique anime culture it boasts – what a shame it’s all based on horrendous working conditions. Can nothing be done?”

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    Avatar of Joshi Chugakusei
    Comment by Joshi Chugakusei
    01:49 29/05/2012 # ! Good (+0.7)

    the thing is, if you let the wages get too high, in any industry, then the quantity of desirable labor decreases.

    take the enjo kousai industry for instance. right now, it's sustained on the fact that wages (aka allowances from their parents) are low, and prices (clothes, idol goods) are high.

    Avatar of Joshi Chugakusei
    Comment by Joshi Chugakusei
    02:03 29/05/2012 # ! Good (+0.7)

    so if you break that balance, then the quality of the industry goes down, whether it be the quality of the joshi, or the quality of the animation.

    Avatar of Powerpuff Loli
    Comment by Powerpuff Loli
    06:27 29/05/2012 # ! Good (+0.7)

    Whoreonomics 101, everybody. Learn it!

    Comment by Anonymous
    14:44 29/05/2012 # ! Neutral (0)

    That's in an ideal world. Companies, however, will always cut corners to turn a profit. Capitalism on paper isn't as glorious in practice. Just look at the Wall Street Crash a few years back for how it can screw people.

    Comment by Anonymous
    14:56 29/05/2012 # ! Good (+0.8)

    true, in an ideal world, joshi prices wouldn't be so ridiculous.

    and i dread a future enjo kousai crash if it means prices are gonna get worse.

    Comment by Anonymous
    12:01 06/06/2012 # ! Neutral (0)

    Well ... there were a few more steps than that (I work in macroeconomics). The U.S. Congress enacted legislation on the premise that home ownership was an unalloyed good (obviously not enough Star Trek fans: "too much of anything, Uhura ... isn't necessarily a good thing"), and the U.S. Federal Reserve lowered the target rate. There was suddenly a lot of money sloshing around the market, and U.S. government paper didn't offer good returns. Mortgage-backed securities (MBS) *seemed* to be a good investment vehicle, so there was pressure to issue more, which required more mortgages to securitize. Oh, plus profits for middlemen, and human psychology (including but not limited to "irrational enthusiasm") perpetuated it all. See e.g. the 2008 "This American Life" story "The Giant Pool of Money" (

    Comment by Anonymous
    18:19 04/06/2012 # ! Neutral (0)

    The wall street crash (if you want to call it that) wasn't from capitalism. It was from government compulsion to lend to sub-prime borrowers. When you give money to people who can't pay it back you loose that investment and create a bubble. If companies are cutting to many corners; it's to keep up with the IRS's stupid tax burdens and pay to conform to the pointless bureaucracies and federal regulations imposed by the U.S. government. It's not capitalism. It's crony capitalism.

    Avatar of Artist Rising
    Comment by Artist Rising
    03:14 29/05/2012 # ! Neutral (0)

    @Joshi Chugakusei

    I don't understand...
    Why don't they just outsource!!!

    Avatar of Mizuumi-san
    Comment by Mizuumi-san
    10:44 29/05/2012 # ! Neutral (0)

    too much FMA... i think?

    Comment by Anonymous
    15:31 29/05/2012 # ! Neutral (0)

    Because bringing girls overseas for enjo kousai would then just be called human sex trafficking...

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:36 30/05/2012 # ! Neutral (0)

    Because this was cheaper than outsourcing. I wonder if this Taiwanese guy was paid even lower because he was a gaijin?

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:04 29/05/2012 # ! Good (+0.6) this is economics i can understand...

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:28 29/05/2012 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    no more anime = no more fapping to 2D

    Comment by Anonymous
    05:38 29/05/2012 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    there will alway be doujinshi.

    Comment by Anonymous
    05:53 29/05/2012 # ! Neutral (0)

    Why would you need anime to fap to 2d? Theres more then enough hentai out there and people will create more for free.

    Comment by Anonymous

    Henry Ford used to pay people the equivalent (adjusted for inflation obviously) of $60 an hour to build cars in his plant. That is a $120,000.00 a year job. Now workers get paid half that money and it doesn't buy nearly what it used to, and the cars produced are not of high quality anymore. So I don't see how desirable labor would decrease by paying people more. It makes much more sense that people who are skilled, or who can easily learn would gravitate towards higher pay.

    Comment by Anonymous
    07:13 29/05/2012 # ! Good (+0.8)

    yeah, that was 90 years ago, and now robots can do 80%+ of that stuff.

    your point?

    Comment by Anonymous
    08:56 29/05/2012 # ! Good (+0.7)

    his point is that he's mad that the robots "tuk ir jubs".

    happened during the industrial age. will happen again.

    Comment by Anonymous
    12:26 30/05/2012 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    And one days robots will do anything and we'll get money from the govt to jerk off in the internet everyday.

    Avatar of Gitami
    Comment by Gitami
    13:41 30/05/2012 # ! Neutral (0)

    One day robots will replace us and be jerking themselves to the internet instead.

    Fucking robot revolution, first our jobs, now our faps.

    Avatar of HouseLife
    Comment by HouseLife

    The majority of the games industry pays their employees pretty darn well, and gives them many days off in general and many studios are in great places. If run by intelligent people, then the companies survive pretty decently on a small crew of people and make things that sell at least enough to keep them around a while to get the chance at a 'big break.'

    Japan is killing itself by having absurd prices on their DVDs and relying solely on the advertising and merchandising of the small niche audiences, when they could expand if they made it more accessible and increase both the other revenues in the process. They keep making this valley that is only crossable by the sociopaths who have nothing else, and not accessible to the everyday fan. In America they've already found ways to keep anime going in the newer generations of technology, it's really just the irony of the most job oriented culture killing its own productivity.

    Paying employees more and rewarding them for good work while pushing them makes them want to do better. I stayed at work until 12 midnight almost every workday for three months to get animations done for my game, and I loved every minute of it even if I wasn't paid more. The Lead Artist, Technical Artist and I tossed Southpark onto a monitor and laughed our asses off as we took out all our work and released nearly on time with what most thought was an impossible deadline.

    Japan's perception on humanity's work strengths are ass backwards. They are raping the last vestiges of truly 'loving one's work' out of the last of the jobs people live for.

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:16 29/05/2012 # ! Good (+0.7)

    lol, american cars

    Comment by Anonymous
    16:49 29/05/2012 # ! Good (+0.5)

    American cars and quality? What mad world you are living in???

    If you want quality cars then europe and japan ...

    Comment by Dark Mage

    First I doubt you ever even owned let alone ever worked on one to gain any experience on whether is something shit or not.

    One of the best built cars I've ever owned was a Chevy of all things.
    I can't say anything bad about the LS1 the thing still ran like a bat out of hell even after 150,000 miles.
    I also had a Toyota truck that was mostly trouble free.
    I wish they still made the 22r.
    I only got rid of it because I needed something that can pull trailers.
    The worst built car I've ever dealt with was a Mitsubishi eclipse.
    All I can say the 6G7 V6 is junk.
    The Quad 4 in some GM's also is crap as they always seem to leak.

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:34 29/05/2012 # ! Neutral (+0.4)

    "Now workers get paid half that money"

    Watch the old footage of the guys assembling Model T's. They literally put raw steel and wood into one end of the plant and Model T's rolled out the other end. The guys building them were highly skilled craftsmen. Now, if you can assemble a LEGO set, you can build a modern car in a modern plant.

    "it doesn't buy nearly what it used to, and the cars produced are not of high quality anymore."

    Totally wrong. Cars today are so much better than what we had even 20 years ago. What's also happened is the tech and gadgets that used to be optional are now standard equipment.

    Avatar of Gitami
    Comment by Gitami
    13:45 30/05/2012 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Supposedly they had technology in the 1950s that could drastically lower wear and tear and maintenance of vehicles, but such technology would not bring in money next year so they stopped focusing on durable technology so we consumers will have to replace our cars every few years. On the other hand they're focusing on more efficient parts.

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:48 31/05/2012 # ! Neutral (0)

    "Cars today can go longer without tune ups and rebuilds but over all they don't last as long as cars made before the 1970s."

    Older cars DIDN'T last longer and weren't designed to either. The ones we still have running around are either restored, very well cared for, or were put away in storage. Believe me, nobody back then thought their car would ever be worth anything or else we'd have more of them saved. They just drove them until the cost to fix it exceeded the value much like we do with our modern cars.

    "I highly doubt as many Honda accords and Ford Tauruses will end up lasting as long as many model T's did."

    According to some old timers and enthusiasts, if you got 20-30,000 miles out of a Model T, it was ready for the scrap heap. A properly maintained modern Honda Accord can easily last half a million miles and still look and run almost new.

    Comment by Dark Mage

    Cars today can go longer without tune ups and rebuilds but over all they don't last as long as cars made before the 1970s.

    I highly doubt as many Honda accords and Ford Tauruses will end up lasting as long as many model T's did.

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:58 29/05/2012 # ! Drivel (-1.0)

    You can blame the growth of the world population for that. Got to spread the wealth around more.

    Comment by Anonymous
    10:39 29/05/2012 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Yeah...if you forget that wealth is not zero-sum. Nice thinking Adam Smith.

    Avatar of Erranty
    Comment by Erranty

    Yes, but making it more expensive to make anime would force them to only fund anime that'll be high quality and high selling.

    I don't really see how that's a downside.

    Comment by Anonymous
    05:10 29/05/2012 # ! Good (+0.9)

    yup, you can say goodbye to original anime if anime gets any more expensive to produce

    Comment by Anonymous
    05:28 29/05/2012 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    enjoy more bleach, herp derp

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:22 29/05/2012 # ! Good (+0.6)

    if you think you aren't being payed enough, then just quit and find a new job.
    if what you're doing is soo valuable, then surely companies will be lining up to pay you more.

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:28 29/05/2012 # ! Good (+0.6)

    It spells trouble.

    Comment by Anonymous
    08:04 29/05/2012 # ! Good (+0.5)

    make it double

    Comment by Anonymous
    11:55 29/05/2012 # ! Good (+0.7)

    To protect the industry from devastation...

    Comment by Anonymous
    13:18 30/05/2012 # ! Neutral (0)

    Happier employees = higher quality and more output due to a higher employee morale.
    Now I know if you get into the anime business it's because of love for the business, so if the only thing wrong are the wages and hours make some reforms.
    I'm learning how to run businesses so I'm taught to be a cold calculating bastard who does everything for my benefit (even good things) but this is purely common sense.

    Comment by Anonymous
    05:02 30/05/2012 # ! Neutral (0)

    To unite all animators within Japans nation

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:23 29/05/2012 # ! Good (+0.6)

    exactly. besides, i find the notion of a foreigner filing suit in a japanese court complaining to be paid more to be pretty ridiculous.

    Avatar of TC-man
    Comment by TC-man

    No, it's not, since a foreigner is still a human-being like everyone else and he has worked there legally and certainly deserves the salary for the work he has done in that period.

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:16 29/05/2012 # ! Good (+0.8)

    naw, i'm just saying i pity the taiwanese guy, because he doesn't understand that you don't win off of labor laws in japan.
    that's something all the japanese animators already know.

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:49 29/05/2012 # ! Good (+0.6)

    This goes with any job, a person like him can easily tossed aside because their are 10 other eager and willing animators ready to replace him. It's for this reason wages in this industry can't increase since there are those who would be happy to take the job for the pitiful amount they are paid.

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:59 29/05/2012 # ! Neutral (+0.3)

    TC-man, that's were you are wrong.

    A. He (hopefully for him) read his contract before signing it. So he knew what he was up to.

    B. Trainees usually get paid peanuts, because the bosses consider the skills he learns at their company as a part of payment. In some sectors trainees don't get paid at all.

    C. Overtime doesn't automatically mean overtime pay. He should have asked it before signing his contract and have negociated about it.

    D. Animation sector is famous for being paid worse than crap. So the plaintiff obiously knew he would be treated and paid like crap.

    Unless, he can prove that the animation company violated his contract in several ways, he has little chance of winning his trial.

    Comment by Anonymous
    21:18 29/05/2012 # ! Neutral (0)

    Its downvoted because its critique on japanase customs and thats not something people on this site want to hear.

    Theyd like it much more when you talk about how the japanese are soooo nice that you can leave your car keys infront of a beggar and he will return them to you, for the millionth time.

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:20 29/05/2012 # ! Drivel (-0.7)

    Why is this modded down?
    Note that this is about whether the company was following Japan's *own* labour laws.
    Whether the company's treatment of its workers really was as bad as stated is for the courts to decide, but if the treatment was unlawful as alleged, then the foreigner-or-not part doesn't come into it. And neither does the you-knew-it-beforehand or all-animators-are-treated-crappy; why have any law at all if companies get a free pass if they only need to say upfront they'll be violating it?

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:45 29/05/2012 # ! Drivel (-0.8)

    10 eager employees?

    They are trying to find people as other people said.

    What he should do though, is hire a yakuza to kill all the big wigs in anime. Or join them at least he gets to carry out his revenge.

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:48 29/05/2012 # ! Neutral (0)

    says the NEET....

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:51 29/05/2012 # ! Good (+0.8)

    NEET is a very respectable profession, with good wages and benefits. and it takes skills you can only be born with to be successful at it (also known as being born with rich parents).

    Comment by Anonymous
    06:06 29/05/2012 # ! Neutral (0)

    says the troll.

    Comment by Dark Mage

    The problem is if most of the companies are breaking the labor laws.

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:11 29/05/2012 # ! Good (+0.7)

    the authority of labor laws in confucian countries (aka smart parts of asia: japan, korea, han parts of china, taiwan, singapore since the han chinese took over)
    are nothing like labor laws in white countries. they're more like guidelines.

    Comment by Anonymous
    13:46 29/05/2012 # ! Good (+0.6)


    as someone who's lived half his life in korea, and half in america, i can tell you that korean strikes are NOTHING like those in white countries.

    korean strikes are basically annual "celebrations" to let off stream. americans, on the other hand, actually think they deserve what they're asking for.

    Comment by Dark Mage
    00:41 30/05/2012 # ! Neutral (0)

    Anon13:04 Umm yes they look like celebrations.

    One was six months long that's some celebration.

    Comment by Dark Mage
    13:04 29/05/2012 # ! Drivel (-1.0)

    Actually in South Korea they are more so absolute laws like in the west vs useless guidelines.

    There even were strikes in South Korea over a set of laws that would have made it easier for employers to fire workers.
    These were quickly repealed.
    Taiwan also is starting to move in this direction with the passing of recent revisions of LSA or Labor Standards Law which limits over time require a 67% premium for hours worked passed the standard 48 etc.
    The truth is over working your workers may gain short term profit but it ends up being very costly for a company in the long term due to stress related medical expenses and worker burnout.

    Avatar of WPE
    Comment by WPE

    this is a very fucking stupid argument hth

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